tonight on "nightline," train crash. a tractor trailer plows into an amtrak passenger train with fatal consequences and many injured. authorities say the crossing gates were working. we have the latest. un-american? how one child was slipped into the country illegally and grew up to reach the pinnacle of his profession, despite false documents and constant fear. >> it wasn't supposed to be there. >> tonight, he tells us why he's coming clean. and, the $600 cookbook. meet the microsoft genius who spent a fortune to teach the world's the best chefs, and you, how to cook perfect food. it takes him 30 hours to make a burger, but you'll get a taes of
his skills in minutes. >> announcer: from the global e resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," june 24th, 2011. >> good evening, i'm bill weir. and we begin tonight with breaking news out of new york, where late tonight, the state senatete passed legislation permittipermi permitting same sex marriage. governor andrew cuomo signs that bill, 30 days later, new york will be the sixth state in the nation, plus washington, d.c., to recognize gay marriage. and we turn now to another breaking story out of nevada, a tragic one at that. a big rig making a long haul through the nevada desert t-boned an amtrak passenger train this afternoon, carrying nearly 220 people, killing at least two and injured more than
100. with the details, here's abc's lisa stark. >> she's out there. >> reporter: for passengers on the train, it was a jarring jolt. then smoke and fire, panic and chaos. after amtrak's california tlan was struck by a tractor trailer. those on board, nearly 220 passengers, scrambled to get out of the train, worried about an explosion, about the spreading fire. >> riding the train, look out the window, next thing i know, get hit by something, a big ball of fire comes in, jump out the window. >> you jumped out the window? >> yeah. >> reporter: jim bickley was traveling with his wife, a few cars behind the one that was hit. he felt the impact. >> there was a lot of smoke, so we decided to stick our head out one of the doors and saw the train was on fire. i'm getting out of here. >> reporter: the amtrak train may have been traveling nearly 80 miles an hour as it came barrelling through the intersection, but local officials say the rail road
crossing gates were working to hold back traffic. so, it is unclear how or while the gravel truck smashed into the side of the fourth rail car. >> we were driving along on the train and apparently a truck decided that it was going to run the stop out in the middle of the desert. nothing around here for miles. and hit the side of the amtrak car. and it was a coach car with people in it. >> reporter: two of the rail cars caught fire, as passers by on the highway stopped to help. local and state police, fire and rescue rushed to the scene. so did the military. nearby naval air station fallon sent helicopters to help evacuate the injured. >> like a bomb exploded. war zone. it was crazy. people everywhere. did see a lady carried out in a blanket. people were using it like a stretcher and yelling for medics. that kind of stuff. >> reporter: 140 on board suffered minor injuries. 40 were taken to local hospitals for treatment. those who walked away from the wreckage could hardly believe
their eyes. >> we're all standing in the desert like a bunch of jack rabbits, just all standing here. scattered about. you know, 100-yard radius. everybody is just kind of unbelievable kind of a feel. >> reporter: tonight, even more than eight hours after the wreck, officials still having trouble getting into the smoldering rail cars to check for anymore survivors or victims. >> unfortunately with the fires in the train still and the flareups, we have not gained access into the train yet to make sure that we've got everybody out. >> reporter: collisions at rail crossings are not uncommon. safety groups estimate that a train in the u.s. collides with a person or vehicle nearly every three hours. in 2008, in illinois, policece y a drunk driver stopped on the tracks. passers by pulled him out just in time as a commuter train rammed into his empty car. and in 2009, another driver, clearly not paying attention, runs right into the side of a
slow-moving train in a north carolina rail road show. last year, there were more than 2,000 collisions between vehicles and trains at rail road crossings. it's not always the driveer's fault. sometimes signals don't work. eithth way, it is frightening and dangerous. >> still in shock, so -- get on a train, you don't think it's going to crash. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm lisa stark in washington. >> our thanks to lisa stark. and just ahead, why an illegal immigrant who built a successful career in the u.s. has decided to reveal the secret that could take it all away. (announcer) chug that coffee,, bolt that burrito. no matter what life throws at you, you can take the heat. until it turns into... heartburn. good thing you've got what it takes to beat that heat, too. zantac. it's strong, just one pill can knock out the burn.
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with bill weir. >> imagine discovering at age 16 that you are not an american. but an illegal immigrant, slipped across the border as a child. what would you do? for jose antonio vargas, the only choice was to live a life and prove his worth, and not only did he become a big-time print reporter, he won his profession's highest prize. but tonight, he is risking that career and everything else by describing his life of tment to abc's dan harris. >> i wasn't supposed to be there. i wasn't supposed to be interviewing romney's sons. it wasn't supposed to be doing all these things. but i was. why was i doing it? because i wanted to live. >> reporter: not only did jose antonio vargas survive, he thrived.
in his reporting career, he scored some of the biggest interviews in politics and high tech. he even won a pulitzer prize. and through it all, he was hiding an enormous secret. >> there wasn't a moment that i wasn't thinking about it. >> reporter: it was a secret he hid in a shoe box in his apartment, where he kept pictures of his childhood in the philippines. at age 12, his mother sent him to live with his grantparents in california. it wasn't until he was 16 that he realized there was a problem. >> she just looked at it, flipped it around and he said, you know, this is fake. don't come back here. don't come back here again. >> reporter: that was the first moment of what would become an elaborate life of secrets, lies and ever-present fear. >> i remember the first instinct was, like, okay, get rid of the accent. i just thought to myself, you know, i couldn't give anybody any reason to ever doubt that i'm an american.
>> reporter: he seriously studied tapes of everything from "the golden girls" to "good fellas." he was able to get his early reporting giks by using a doctored social security card his grandfather got for him. but in his '20s, he sreceived a job offer from "the washington post." to work there, he needed a driver's lie sense. for that, he used fake documents. you were committing a crime. >> yes. yes, i was. you have to do what you have to do. i wanted to work. i wanted to work. i wanted to contribute. i wanted to prove i was worthy of being here. i was going to do whatever it took to do that. it wasn't the right thing to do. but i had to do it. what was i supposed to do? what i was up posed to do? >> he didn't have many options. >> reporter: he had help from his former high school principal and superinten dent. a lot of people would say that's
admirable. but a lot of people would say, you were helping this kid commit a crime. >> i would do it all over again. >> if yoyo work with kids that you knew were undocumented and just watched them fade away as they began to approach adulthood, out of fear that they weren't -- they that would be found out. it wasn't too hard to decide in your heart that the right thing to do is to try to help young people. to meet their to tpotential. >> reporter: it worked. vargas got the job, and his career took off. he used that fraudulent license to get into the white e house t cover a state dinner. were you nervous to go to the white house? >> oh, gosh, yes. i keep thinking, every time, was somebody going to catch me? >> reporter: he n ner got caught. but final lip he decided to out himself. >> i couldn't hide the secret anymore. i just snapped. i just snapped, man. >> reporter: the last straw, he says, came in december, when congress failed to pass the
d.r.e.a.m. act. a bill that would allow the roughly 2 million illegal immigrants that came to this country as children to become citizens, if they go to college or serve in the military. the critics of this act say this would award undocumented parents and be an open invitation to fraud. >> but who are we punishing? my question about this is, who are we punishing? we are punishing kids who, through no fault of their own, are then left out here in the system, right? >> reporter: are you not giving an incentive to parents in other countries to come here illegal little with their children? >> what do we do with all these kids that are g going to americ schools, that we are investing in anyway? what are we supposed to do with them? what are we supposed to do with them? >> reporter: it's a thorny issue. and vargas' case makes it even thornier. what should the government do about him now? you could get sent back -- >> i could, yes. i haven't been back home since i was 12. i'm 30 now.
>> reporter: he hasn't dared to go home to see his mother during all of that time because he wouldn't be able to return. his grandmother, who is here legally, is clearly worried now. what do you think of what jose's doing now with announcing that he's undocumented? >> i'm sad. >> reporter: you're sad? >> we don't -- >> reporter: you don't want to talk about it? she's worried about it. >> yeah. >> reporter: federal officials are aware of vargas' situation and their early reaction suggests they may not deport him. but this former official says that couou send a troubling message. >> and the concern would be is that, by deferring action on someone who is high profile like this, you would be sending a message that it's okay. >> reporter: but vargas says his case sends another message. one that could change americano
about illegal immigrants, by shining a spotlight the 66,000 of them who have a bachelor's degree or higher. >> we are not who you think we are. we don't just babysit your kids and, you know, serve you tacos. >> reporter: vargas knows he's taking a risk to send that message. he is scared, he says, but determined. >> you can call me whatever you want to call me, but in my heart -- in my heart i'm an american. >> reporter: for "nightline" this is dan harris in mountain view, california.
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some chefs are scientists in the kitchen. but the man you're about to meet is more of a mad scientist, madness defined by someone who spends his own millions studying popcorn. here's abc's neal karlinsky. >> reporter: food can be glorious. it can be simple, complex, it can even be hard. if you have never imagined a simple kernel of popcorn as a thing of beautyty just watch. as it blossoms like a flower in this incredible slow motion video, consider that what you are really witnessing are the experiments of a man who is devoting a small fortune to an examination of food unlike anything the world has seen. a lot of people wonder how their microwave works. so, we cut one in half. >> reporter: his name is nathan, and cutting things in half to understand, for example, what heat really does to a pot full of broccoli is just the beginning.
the recipe in this ideal lab for food including a dash of art x mixed with a whole lot of science, all wrapped together with a passion for cooking. the result? modernist cuisine, a $625, 2,400-page waterproof bible of food. a collection already sold out of its first printing. >> we had a goal to show people a vision of food that they just hadn't seen before. >> reporter: take the simple bonbon for example. not so simple here. bananas are spun, turning them to juice, which is frozen in liquid nitrogen before being drowned in hot sere run. trust me, there's nothing complicated about the result. oh, wow. >> this is about 20 to 25 pounds of just this. >> reporter: the lead chef whipped up something he calls pea butter, by spinning peas in a jar as speeds that pull more
gs than an astronaut. are they making this anywhere else on the planet right now? >> not yet. >> reporter: the team of world class chefs claim tharm perfect burger recipe takes 30 hours to cook. >> when you throw in the egg white, it totally improved the texture. this is just a thick paste of mushroom and egg. we're going to spread it on the pan. in one nice, smooth motion -- >> reporter: wow. nathan made me an omelet cooked in a steamer that included scrambled eggs shot out of a can. nothing here looks like an omelet. >> well, it's nontraditional. there you go. >> reporter: that's like no omelet i've ever had. every bit of food has been deconstructed to get to essence of its taste and rebuilt using the core principles of sips. from the juiciest chicken our
crew had ever tasted, thanks to a combination of cooking then super-heated roasting -- whoa! don't go skim pl on the gravy here. >> i won't. >> reporter: once again this is too good for me to eat. that's incredible. >> so, we just use an ordinary box gralter here. >> reporter: to a unique and delicious mac and cheese. >> so, you turned regular cheese into special cheese. >> yep. >> reporter: that anyone can make. that is the ultimate. >> there you go. >> reporter: who else but a billionaire like nathan to make it happen. after all, the man who helped build microsoft, also worked as a physicist alongside steven hawking. >> these containers which are relatively light, can hold enough vaccine for 5,000 people. >> reporter: new containers for third world vaccines and an invisible fence to wipe out malaria-carrying mosquitos are just a fraction of what these scientists are working alongside
the kitchen. the company is a virtual patent factory, inside a 27,500 square foot warehouse near seattle. >> the challenges you have are very different than the challenges of making great mac and cheese. but understanding the laws of nature, understanding how nature actually works, is really important. cooking relies on science, but cooking is itself an art. >> reporter: the books and their illustrations were such a vast undertaking, it didn't just take years of work and millions of dollars. he had to create his own publishing company. i know you've done fairly well. how much did all this run you? >> i don't like to think about that. >> reporter: next up, he says maybe a second series of books. this time, about baking. or, he might just pursue another passion. dinosaur research. i'm neal karlinsky for "nightline" in bell vi,